The duplex ultrasound is a useful type of diagnostic test to assess blood circulation. It combines the techniques of traditional ultrasound with those of Doppler ultrasound. Traditional ultrasound uses sound waves to create black-and-white images of the veins and arteries. Doppler technology uses sound waves to track blood flow, generating color images of blood as it flows through the body. Using this combination of techniques, duplex ultrasound helps to distinguish several important characteristics of the blood vessels, including speed and direction of blood flow and diameter of the vessels themselves. Duplex ultrasound can also detect the presence and extent of any obstruction in the blood vessels, such as varicose veins or obstruction of blood flow.
Types of Duplex Ultrasound
There are several different types of duplex ultrasound depending on the patients symptoms and the region of concern. These types include:
● Duplex ultrasound of the abdomen
● Duplex ultrasound of the carotid artery in the neck
● Duplex ultrasound of the extremities
● Renal duplex ultrasound (of the kidneys)
● Duplex ultrasound of the scrotum
For most types of duplex ultrasound examinations, there is no preparation needed, but patients undergoing an abdominal exam are typically instructed to fast after midnight prior to the test. It is important for patients to inform their doctors if they are taking any prescribed anticoagulants since these can affect test results. It is also necessary for the doctor to know whether the patient is a smoker because nicotine causes the arteries to constrict, altering test results. Caffeine intake may also alter thr results
Reasons for a Duplex Ultrasound
A duplex ultrasound helps the doctor visualize and measure blood flow to many regions of the body. It is useful in assessing the width of specific blood vessels and detecting any blockages and has the advantage of being less invasive than an arteriography or a venography. THere are no IVs needed or any contrast material. Duplex ultrasounds are administered to assist to diagnose or evaluate the following:
● Abdominal aortic aneurysm
● Arterial occlusion
● Carotid occlusive disease
● Deep vein thrombosis
● Renal function after transplant
● Peripheral arterial disease
● Renal vascular disease
● Varicose veins
● Venous insufficiency
● Testicular pain
Patients considered at high risk for circulatory problems are more likely candidates for a duplex ultrasound. This category includes smokers, diabetics, and those who are hypertensive or have high cholesterol.
The Duplex Ultrasound Procedure
During the examination, the patient wears a hospital gown and lies on a table. A gel that helps with conduction is spread over the part of the body to be examined. The technologist administering the test moves a transducer (wand) over the region being evaluated. The transducer emits sound waves; an attached computer measures the sound waves as they echo, creating images. The patient may hear a swishing sound during the exam; this is the sound of the blood moving as it circulates through the blood vessels. The patient may experience slight pressure during the procedure, but there is not usually any discomfort. A duplex ultrasound takes about 30 minutes and is normally performed in a clinic or hospital setting.
Throughout most of the procedure, the patient lies still, but may to asked to change positions from time to time and to take and hold a deep breath. During a duplex ultrasound of the extremities, an ankle-brachial index (ABI) may need to be calculated. For this purpose, blood pressure cuffs will be placed on the patient’s arms and legs. The ABI result is the number resulting from dividing the ankle blood pressure by the blood pressure in the arm.
Results of a Duplex Ultrasound
The results of a duplex ultrasound are evaluated carefully to detect any abnormalities in the affected blood vessels, such as plaque buildup or blood clots or dilatation of veins. There are no risks associated with the procedure. Depending upon the medical findings, other treatments, including possible surgery, may be necessary to fix the issue